Virtual Realities: Collective Dreams from Plato to Cyberspace
What is 'virtual reality'? If something is real, isn't it also always actual, and if virtual, only almost or nearly real? What strange, hybrid no-mans-land lies midway between truth and illusion, and how can we learn to navigate inside this space? The puzzle is an old one, even if the technology we call VR is new. In this discussion-intensive course, we will read, watch, and play our way through some of the most powerful attempts to understand humanity's penchant for collective dreaming: from Plato's allegory of the cave, to the immersive spectacles of baroque theater, to the ghostly realms of gothic literature and modern film, to the invention of cyberspace and parallel universe games.